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Bioprinting for Re-Distributed Manufacture of Microtissues

The aim of this project was to develop a functional islet micro-tissue(s) by 3-D printing viable islet cells. It assessed the potential this would have in terms of re-defining the supply chain for regenerative approaches to the treatment of diabetes.

Project leader

Dr AM Ferreira-Duarte


October 2015 to April 2016




Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. It destroys the body’s native insulin producing β-cells in the pancreas. They are then unable to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

According to Diabetes UK’s latest estimates, 10% of the NHS yearly budget (> £10,000,000,000/year) is for the treatment of diabetes and  its complications. Expected to rise over the next 20 years.

Type 1 diabetes is treated by careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and insulin replacement therapy. 

In some cases where glucose is particularly unstable, insulin replacement therapy is not enough. Transplant options are available.

One such option, islet transplantation, is a still emerging as a treatment. It is clinically adopted in the UK for patients with recurrent severe hypoglycaemia.

But the need for life-long immunosuppression and a high tissue requirement due to a highly variable nature of isolated islets have limited its adoption. This is for the widespread treatment of patients with Type 1 diabetes.

The emergence of 3D bioprinting provides us with an opportunity to evaluate a novel approach to islet transplantation. It has the potential to improve outcomes by defining an ideal product specification for islet micro-tissue products.